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Friday, February 26, 2021

Egyptian court postpones AJE journalists’ trial

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jail cell

The trial of three Al Jazeera English journalists detained in Egypt on charges of spreading false news and aiding a “terrorist” group has been postponed again, after the men appeared in court for a third time today.

Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have been held in prison for three months. They were taken from their hotel rooms in December and accused of defaming Egypt for their coverage of ongoing conflict there. The trio deny the charges leveled against them.

Several other reporters for the channel have fallen out with Egyptian authorities after the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi last summer. Abdullah Al-Shami, a correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic, has been detained for more than six months without charge and has been on hunger strike since January.

The new Egyptian government is now run by the military, which has officially designated Morsi’s political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist group.

Mass death sentence

Also today, an Egyptian court sentenced 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death in part for the murder of a police officer during riots last summer. Some 16 others were acquitted, Reuters reports.

Qatar, which supports the banned group, has not yet commented on the sentencing. The country’s Emir is in Kuwait today for an Arab League Summit.

Leaders from across the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain are also there. Those three countries pulled their ambassadors from Qatar earlier this month apparently in part over Doha’s support of the MB in Egypt.

While Gulf countries have yet to weigh in on today’s verdict, which comes after only two court hearings, it has already been condemned by several human rights groups.

Reuters quotes Mohamed Zaree, program manager, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, as saying:

“A second year student in the faculty of law would never issue this verdict. There are a lot of flaws in this verdict. I think maybe an appeal could be successful but nothing is predictable.”

Amnesty International has also weighed in, saying in a statement that the verdict was a “grotesque example of the shortcomings and the selective nature of Egypt’s justice system.”

The trial of the three AJE journalists will resume on March 31.

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